This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.
Joi Ito is one of the folks I’ve enjoyed meeting most in recent times, though we’ve not spent much time together I’ve learned a ton every time – I hope I can return the favour some day! It was Joi who first described the World of Warcraft scene to me. I was impressed with the scale of it all. But what really intrigued me was Joi’s description of how he’s wiring up a room in his house to be a sort of portal into that other virtual world. Sound, perhaps other sensory indicators, will give anyone in that room a feeling of being immersed in WoW.
Second Life of course brings a new twist to the idea of immersion, though for now it’s immersion on the virtual side of the looking glass. What interests me are the ways in which there is cross-over between the virtual world and the real world. When I’m walking around town, does my mobile phone alert me to changes in the virtual world? And when I’m working at my PC, how much can I stay focused on work, say, while my PC also keeps me abreast of what’s going on with my avatar?
I think there’s going to be a need for innovation around the ways we blur the lines between real and virtual worlds, and this is again one of those places that I think the free software community could steal a lead on the proprietary world. Think of the “presence” framework being extended to know not only about the real world, who’s where doing what, but also about these virtual worlds, in which we might each be engaged in any number of different activities. Turning all of that into a nice seamless experience is the challenge.